It’s almost as if every week, the Ben Simmons vs. Philadelphia 76ers divorce adds another messy chapter to this disaster novel. There was the initial hold out through the preseason. Once back with the team, Simmons was almost immediately thrown out of practice by head coach Doc Rivers. The Sixers then announced that Simmons has been suspended from the team for one game. All of this has happened in the first week that Simmons has participated in the Sixers’ preseason activities.
This situation will only get messier before it gets resolved, so why not take a moment to look at what outcomes are in play and why this could end in disaster for both parties.
On the surface, Team Simmons seems to have snagged a copy of the “How to get James Harden out of Houston” Playbook. Ben Simmons is trying to create as much chaos as he can to force the Sixers to bail. It’s a perfect staring contest. It’s annoying, but it’s a staring contest.
The best-case scenario for Simmons is where the Sixers take a nosedive early in the season; the pressure gets put on Doc to reconcile their differences and get him back on the court or trade him. That’s how Simmons wins. Prove your worth to the team, and then snidely wink at team’s listening to how badly the Sixers need him. Simmons can prove his worth without stepping on the court at the Wells Fargo Center, so why do it?
For the Sixers, their best case scenario is to win without Simmons, pushing his antics to the forefront, and letting his talent and play become secondary in the conversation. Let the narrative play out, and force the comparison to the now Brooklyn Net, James Harden, but add a dash of Kyrie Irving.
Ben Simmons is trying to posture himself to look like James Harden without the deep three ability. The Sixers are hoping that they can cast a Kyrie-sized shadow over Simmons’ demeanor and behavior.
It’s a standoff, and as a fan with no dog in the fight, I’m cheering for chaos. Because truthfully, the most likely outcome is destruction on both sides. The Sixers are not the same team without Simmons, and no one wants the guy who can’t practice or shoot threes.
Do the Sixers need Simmons to make the playoffs? It’s unclear, but that’s the gamble Philadelphia is making. On the other side of the coin, Simmons’ camp can only hope that answer is a resounding “no.”
But, the third option here is possibly the most complicated for Ben Simmons.
Say the Sixers get good, like really good, as in “This team is the Warriors of the East” good. At that point, the Sixers might extend an olive branch to bolster their roster without trading picks to Oklahoma City.
With Philly riding high and Simmons making them even better, Philly has forced Simmons to do the one thing he can’t: risk looking like a role player. In this scenario, nothing is stopping Doc Rivers from benching Simmons in favor of his hotter hand. At that point, Simmons will lively go back to standing his ground, but the narrative will shift. “Ben Simmons Gives Up on Philly” is now the headline.
For Simmons, should this scenario play out, he’ll need to be ready to go all-in. If, even as a 6th man, Simmon makes them better. and then the narrative becomes, “The Sixers need Simmons to get to the NBA Finals.” And that’s where Simmons has them in a corner. They have to trust Simmons has their best intentions when he does come back into the fold.
All in all, this situation has more intrigue and potentials for backstabbing than an Agatha Christie play. But for fans of Sixers, this whole situation has to be grating. “Trust the Process” is no longer a mantra; it’s beginning to feel like a stall tactic. And that’s not good for anyone.
As of right now, Simmons is practicing occasionally with the full Sixers team, who are feeling the loss of their point guard as they begin their season with a whimper, not a shout. And now, according to Coach Rivers, it seems like Simmons’ nightly minutes will be dictated by his mental health as much as the physical.
We’re barely a week into the season and things are already getting spicy.
- / 11 months ago
To me, Rachel Nichols is the personification of posting a black square on Instagram.